Manufacturing executive pursues passion for sailing
Brad West has been intrigued with sailing since he was a teenager. Now he’s getting out on the water.
| 6:00 a.m. January 10, 2020
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Executive: Brad West, senior vice president of corporate development and treasurer of Venice-based impact resistant window and door manufacturer PGT Innovations.
Diversion: West, 50, sails a Flying Scot sailboat on Sarasota Bay and is a member of the Sarasota Sailing Squadron. He has participated in several races and plans to compete in more.
Teenage dream: West has wanted to sail for a long time. “I got into the concept of sailing when I was teenager watching the America’s Cup on ESPN,” he says. In his 20s, he crewed on other people’s boats, but he only sailed about a couple times a year. When he and his wife, Katrina, became empty nesters a couple years ago, he decided to pursue sailing again.
Take to water: For about six months, West crewed for other people. He took lessons at the Squadron to learn how to race. About a year ago, he got his own Flying Scot, known in the industry as a daysailer. A new Flying Scot can cost around $25,000, while there's a good used market, West says, where prices range from $4,000 to $12,000. He and his wife started racing soon after he got his own Flying Scot. “It’s been everything I thought it would be and more,” he says. “It’s such an amazing high.”
In the same boat: More often than not, West says his wife serves as his crew on the boat. “As you work together with your crew, then teamwork becomes an important aspect of the sport,” he says. While he’s steering the boat, the crew affects the sails. “It gives you the opportunity to be part of a team accomplishing the same thing,” he says.
Focused fun: Sailing isn’t a passive sport — it’s one that involves active challenges on multiple fronts. “You’re always required to be focused mentally,” West says. “If you take your focus off just for 10 seconds to fix a problem, you could fall behind two boat lengths. You definitely have to focus in on what you’re doing, but you also have to be aware of your surroundings at all times.” Sailing also requires doing math on the fly and responding to changing conditions, the race course and other boats. “I think the interesting part of it is the strategy — how to react to wind shifts, how to predict wind shifts, how to avoid the other boats — all of those factors make it really exciting,” he says. Plus, sailing is much more physical than many people realize. “It’s definitely a workout, especially for your core.”
‘It’s been everything I thought it would be and more.’ Brad West, PGT Innovations
Ready to race: West has participated in 30 or 40 races. He also regularly heads out on the water for practice races. “I try to sail at least once a week,” he says, usually Saturdays or Sundays. “Flying Scot does have a pretty active fleet in Sarasota, especially during this time of year,” he says. “You can typically see up to 10 to 15 boats racing.”
Competitive challenge: West says his competitive spirit comes through as he’s sailing — and a desire to get better. “I’m definitely measuring myself as I do this to try to get better and finish higher in the rankings and finish closer to the top,” he says. There are several good sailors in his fleet, which can make rising in the ranks a challenge. “It’s fun to be part of that fleet because they definitely want to help other people get better,” West says. “The exciting part is I know there’s a long way for me to go.”
Come sail away: Now that West has completed his first year of sailing the Flying Scot, he says he’ll feel more confident to take his boat on the road and travel to races in other parts of the state. There are races in Tampa, Miami, Jacksonville and other Florida cities that could be on his list for 2020.
Sunset sail: Although West enjoys racing, he also likes the return trip to the Squadron after a race when he’s able to take in his surroundings — the nice weather, the breeze and the sunsets. “That ride back is really nice,” he says. “You can literally say to yourself, ‘I would never live anywhere else.’”
Smooth sailing: Sailing has a host of benefits West appreciates — and plans to continue to appreciate for a long time. “It’s a good reason to be outside, a good reason to stay in shape and sailing is a sport you can continue to do all throughout your life,” he says. “It’s challenging enough that you will always be working on getting better.”